LOS ANGELES – Throughout her career, Ellie Goulding has been candid about the drawbacks of fame. Although she remembers being a self-conscious teenager, Goulding said her struggles with panic attacks, anxiety and insecurity about how she looks were exacerbated in the early stages of her stardom.
“I was kind of thrust into this world,” she recalled. “I didn’t really get a chance to sort of do that thing that everyone gets to do where they kind of come out of that teenage phase, like start to find yourself.”
But as Goulding gears up to release her fifth studio album, “Higher Than Heaven,” on Friday, the British pop star declared she is done caring about what other people think.
“I can’t allow those comments and those opinions to affect me. I can’t. Life is too short,” Goulding said in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press. “I think we all need to be way more selfish and stop doing things for other people."
But even as she professes to put herself first more, Goulding does want to use her clout to speak up for those “who don’t have a voice,” including the people most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the planet itself.
As she finalizes the details of her upcoming tour, the outspoken climate activist and U.N. Environment goodwill ambassador is putting her money where her mouth is by only agreeing to play venues that can meet her standards of environmentally sustainable practices.
“We’re trying to figure out a tour that’s very green and has the smallest possible carbon footprint,” she said. “I really care about that stuff and it just takes a little bit more time and energy and effort to figure it all out.”
Goulding is cognizant of the amount of pollution and waste that results from a typical tour, from the travel involved to the merchandise sold and large quantities of plastic used.
“There’s like so much plastic backstage,” she said.
But for her, the extra work is worth it to return to the stage. Like many artists at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Goulding was unable to take her last album on tour when it was released in July 2020.
“As a performer, I didn’t realize how much it was really holding me together. Even just the act of singing is really a powerful thing,” she said. “I was doing it all the time and then I stopped. And suddenly my anxiety came back and I felt something was really missing.”
While she is happy to return to the familiarity of performing and making electronic music, a genre she said she grew up on, Goulding mused that she would consider new collaborators and possibly even new styles of music in the future.
“I think for the next album I might experiment a bit,” she said.
“My voice carries everything I do and so, I feel like I could put out a classical album tomorrow and people would be like, ‘Yeah, that’s Ellie, isn’t it?’ So, I feel like I can get away with that,” she laughed.
Goulding’s outlook on pleasing others isn’t the only thing that has undergone profound shifts since the singer rose to fame more than a decade ago. In that time, the way people listen to and discover music has fundamentally changed, as well as the way artists are often expected to engage with fans.
“I do feel a little bit lucky that I came through as an artist in a time when there was no social media,” the 36-year-old said as she reflected on the current ubiquity of platforms like TikTok and Instagram and the influence they have on the music industry.
Although she is looking forward to fans hearing the “uplifting, upbeat” sound of “Higher Than Heaven,” Goulding said her expectations surrounding album releases have been tempered in recent years.
“Every other album gets like a big build up and a big release. And it feels like something has shifted,” she said. “People are just really on a kind of quest for more and more information, more and more songs and music, more behind the scenes with songs, more collaborations.”
In the midst of the industry’s insatiable appetite for more, Goulding finds solace in “Sex and the City” reruns and regular exercise, something she still prioritizes after becoming a mom.
“It’s kind of always been a constant thing in my life. Everything else is chaotic and the one thing I can rely on is running and going to the gym,” she said, adding that working out helps her stay mentally “in the best possible place” for her son, Arthur.
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